Nyonya Food in Penang: Top 10 Foods And Restaurants to Eat Them

This article has links to products and services we recommend, which we may make a commission from.

Would you like to try Nyonya food in Penang?

That was the question our friend Kathleen, who lives in Malaysia, asked us soon after we arrived in Penang.

Peranakan cuisine or Nyonya food in Penang was unknown to us before visiting Malaysia. While in Penang, we explored traditional Nyonya cuisine and Peranakan culture.

In this article, we put a spotlight on Nyonya food, including the traditional dishes, and the best restaurants that serve authentic Nyonya cuisine.

Join us in the discovery of Peranankan food in Penang, Malaysia.

Authentic Food Quest Page_Break

What Is Nyonya Food or Peranankan Food?

Nyonya Dish Penang Nyonya Food by Authentic Food Quest
Traditional Nyonya dish

Penang is known as one of the birthplaces of Peranakan culture. Peranakan means “straits born” or the descendants of Chinese immigrants who married and integrated with local Malays. 

Males are referred to “Baba” for “Nyonya” for females.  Our friend, Kathleen, of Baba Nyonya heritage, helped guide us through flavors of Nyonya cuisines and Nyonya restaurants in Penang.

Nyonya food, or Penang Peranakan food, is a result of blending Chinese ingredients with distinct spices and cooking techniques used by locals.

This unique and authentic Nyonya cuisine is aromatic, spicy, and herbal. 

Fresh herbs like lemongrass, galangal (wild ginger), turmeric, chilies, shallots, and spicy shrimp belacan paste are used in most Nyonya dishes.

Top Penang Nyonya Food Not To Miss

Nyonya food incorporates Malay style dishes, traditional Chinese foods with modifications, and importantly, invented or innovative foods. 

Sweets and desserts also play a quintessential role in traditional Nyonya dishes and they are known as keuhs

They are typically colorful and bite sized and come in a variety of flavors and textures.

From savory to sweet dishes here is a range of the best Nyonya food in Penang to savor. 

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you want to explore local food in Penang, Georgetown, consider taking a food tour. This Georgetown food tour takes you the best traditional dishes at local eateries along with a cultural tour of Penang. Enjoy good food, taste delicious street food and discover Penang with a local guide.

1. Kuih Paiti or Nyonya Top Hats

Intricate and delightful typical Nyonya appetizers

Kuih Paiti is a classic Nyonya food that is also found in Singapore, where it is known as Kueh Pie Tee. 

Authentic Nyonya kuih are classic little bites that are prepared in little pie shells that resemble top hats.

Savory, crispy pastry shells are filled with a tasty mix of thinly sliced turnips, carrots, bamboo shoots, and french bean.

These Top Hats are served with a delicious homemade chili sauce, that adds a nice finish.

The contrast of textures between the crispy cups and moist fillings make eating these a truly amazing experience. 

As one of the best Nyonya food in Penang, you’ll find it difficult to stop at just one.

RELATED: 9 Reasons You Should Feast on Penang Food, Malaysia

2. Nyonya Chap Chai or Mixed Vegetables Stew

Nyonya Chap Chai Nyonya Food Authentic Food Quest
Delicious mixed vegetables stew

Chap Chai, or Chap Chye, is an authentic homecooked Nyonya food enjoyed by Peranakans and non-Peranakans alike. 

It is a common Chinese dish typically eaten around Chinese New Year. There are many variations of the recipe and they are typically passed down from generation to generation.

This vegetable stew is filled with cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, black fungus, lily flower bud, beancurd and various other vegetables. 

What sets the Nyonya version apart is the use of taucheo, fermented soya bean, in the place of salt. 

This traditional and simple dish is a delicious complement to chicken curry. This authentic Nyonya food is the essence of home style cooking. 

The kind of vegetable stew one’s grandmother would make.

3. Otak-Otak or Steamed Fish Cake

Otak Otak Nyonya Food In Penang by Authentic Food Quest
Otak Otak is a good starter or a complete meal with a side dish

Otak Otak is an authentic Nyonya food that is popular in both Malaysia and Singapore.

This Penang Nyonya food is a steamed fish cake encased in banana leaves. Otak-otak is made with ground fish mixed with spices such as lemongrass, chillies and turmeric.

The famous Penang version also uses betel leaves or daun kaduk, to add additional flavor and then grill it over charcoal. 

We enjoyed the delicious otak otak flavors as a snack. However, it can also be eaten as a full meal with steamed rice.

Everyone who loves Nyonya food always recommends getting started with these flavorful steamed fish cakes.

READ RELATED: Top 12 Authentic Food in Singapore You Want To Try

4. Loh Bak, Lobak or Nyonya Pork Roll

Loh Bak Penang Nyonya Food by Authentic Food Quest
Loh Bak can be found in many variations at street vendorsphoto credit: Alpha on Flickr cc by 2.0

Loh Bak or pork roll is a famous Penang Nyonya food. It is commonly made with coarsely ground pork seasoned with Chinese five spice powder that is rolled in thin beancurd sheets and fried. 

In Penang, you’ll find it as finger food sold by street vendors, or as part of a platter with other delicious Nyonya dishes.

As it popular, there are tons of variations when it comes to this Nyonya food. We found add-ins like green onions, jicama, water chestnuts, and shrimp. 

Every family and every street stall vendor has their own favorite recipe.

Whatever variation you try, you’ll not go wrong with Lobak. It’s one of the best Nyonya food to savor.

6. Kari Kay or Nyonya Chicken Curry

Delicious chicken curry in a coconut sauce

Chicken curry is a popular Indian dish found all over the world, but this Nyonya version had us begging for more.

Cooked in the traditional Nyonya bone-in style and infused with fresh curry paste and leaves. 

This chicken curry swimming in a thick coconut-based sauce is one of the most scrumptious Nyonya dishes. 

It is mouthwatering and incredibly aromatic, with the chicken pieces easily falling off the bones.

Even though this chicken curry might seem like one of your familiar savory dishes, this Peranakan version is not to be missed.

6. Ayam Buah Keluak or Traditional Chicken Curry Dish

Ayam Buah Keluak Nyonya Restaurant In Penang by Authentic Food Quest
This authentic Nyonya dish is a symbol of Peranakan culture

Ayam buah keluak is another very traditional Nyonya food and a classic dish within Peranakan culture.

This Nyonya food in Penang is distinguished by the use of buak keluak nut, known as candlenut in English. 

It looks similar to the macadamia nut and is native to the mangrove swamps in Malaysia and Indonesia.

One of the peculiarities of this nut is that the raw seed contains cyanide, which if ingested in high amounts can kill.

The seeds are painstakingly cleaned to make them safe for consumption and used to make this baba nyonya classic dish.

This traditional Nyonya food is one of the icons of Peranakan culture. Ayam Buah Keluak is made with the  buah keluak nut mixed with chicken and other aromatics and spices.

Peranakans usually remove the flesh from the nuts and saute it with chicken and spices, then fill the mixture back into the nuts and cook them in curry.

This dish is mildly spicy with a slightly sour flavor. But you won’t find it on the menu in all Nyonya restaurants because it is one of the most time-consuming Peranakan dishes to make.

7. Nyonya Acar Hu or Acar Fish Dish

Nyonya Acar Fish Best Nyonya Food In Penang by Authentic Food Quest
Turmeric and ginger give this dish health benefits

With a blend of sweet and savory flavors, this is one of the most traditional Nyonya cuisine dishes.

This must-try Nyonya dish is a pickled, sweet and sour fish known as acar hu. Acar hu translates to ‘fish pickle’ in the Nyonya dialect.  

It typically is a deep-fried fish is pickled with a turmeric-vinegar base and spiced with garlic, ginger, and chilies. 

Best eaten with steaming hot rice, the tasty dish is the perfect balance of sweet, sour and tangy flavors. 

Acar Hu is said to be therapeutic because turmeric and ginger are excellent antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. 

Many Nyonya dishes use plenty of herbs, spices and roots for similar therapeutic effects.

8. Nasi Ulam or Rice Salad with Herbs

Nyonya Ulam Best Nyonya Food In Penang by Authentic Food Quest
Try this delicious fusion of Malay and Chinese cuisines

Another classic Nyonya food in Penang is the herb rice known as nasi ulam. This dish is a strong example of the Malay influence on Penang Peranakan food. 

Mixing raw herbs into rice was not done in the original Hokkien or southern Chinese cuisine from which many Baba Nyonyas derive. 

It was more common with the Malay people that the early Chinese settlers would have come into contact with.

A popular Nyonya food in Penang, you’ll find that no two nasi ulam are the same. 

Most are made with rice, coconut paste, and shallots. As for the rest, you’ll find the rice mixed with any number of fresh, local herbs and vegetables.

Some may include as finely-shredded fresh turmeric root, pink torch ginger, wild betel leaves, Thai basil leaves and Vietnamese mint. 

Some nasi ulam may even include salted fish or dried shrimp with a side of sambal sauce for a bite of spice.

Nyonya Nasi ulam represents the wonderful combination of flavors from Malay and Chinese cultures.

9. Nyonya Kuih or Traditional Nyonya Sweet or Savory Cakes

Nyonya Khui Best Nyonya Food In Penang by Authentic Food Quest
Bright natural colors make these cookies irresistible

Nyonya cakes, also known as keuhs or kuih, are bite-sized, colorful desserts such as cookies, cakes, pastries, and puddings. 

They are made primarily with rice flour or glutinous rice, along with coconut, tapioca, mung bean and more. 

The colors are the most striking characteristic of these desserts, with their greens, pinks, yellows and blues.

Generally, these desserts or cakes are home cooked Nyonya foods made to celebrate cultural and religious events.

These cakes are not overly sweet though they do contain coconut and palm sugar.

The vibrant colors are also not artificial and are made from natural coloring such as pandan leaves, gula melaka, rose syrup and egg yolk.

There are many varieties and we enjoyed sampling the different flavors regularly. These desserts were one of our favorite parts of Nyonya cuisine.

10. Nyonya Soya Bean Curd – Soy Pudding 

Soybean Curd Nyonya Food Authentic Food Quest
Green Tea Nyonya Bean Curds

While walking the streets one evening, we stumbled onto a small corner cafe that was making Nyonya soya bean curd. Intrigued by this pudding-like dessert, we decided to give it a try.

Nyonya Soya Bean curd is simply sweet tofu. It is made from soy milk transformed into curds by cooking it with gelatin or jelly powder, and then cooling it for hours before serving. 

The traditional soya bean curd has only sugar as one of the main ingredients. While flavored soya bean curds also have vanilla, sesame or green tea.

The texture of the Nyonya Soya Bean is similar to custard or pudding. The taste is really mild and by itself, it can be quite bland. 

You want to try the vanilla, sesame, or green tea flavors for the best experience. This is the perfect dessert after a spicy or rich meal.

READ MORE: 10 Surprising Facts About Malaysian Food You Need to Know

Best Restaurants in Penang For Nyonya Food

Nyonya Cakes Nyonya Food by Authentic Food Quest
Trying out Nyonya tasty cakes from a street vendor

In Penang, you’ll find many Nyonya restaurants serving delicious and good Nyonya food. While they range from unpretentious eateries to elaborate restaurants you can count on enjoying wonderful Penang Peranakan food.

Following are a few of our top favorite Nyonya restaurants in Penang.

1. Bibik’s Kitchen Nyonya Cuisine

Bibiks Kitchen Nyonya Food In Penang by Authentic Food Quest
Don’t miss out Nyonya chicken rendang at Bibi’sPhoto credit: Bibik’s Kitchen on Facebook

This quaint, simple restaurant is where you’ll find authentic and delicious home cooked Nyonya dishes with the recipes handed down through generations. 

The owner is passionate about the food, the history and the heritage of Peranakan and Nyonya culture. 

Bibik’s Kitchen Nyonya Cuisine is known for its Nyonya chicken rendang. This dish is a dry curry. It uses less liquid, resulting in a dry, thick sauce instead of being soupy or saucy. 

The chicken is slow-cooked, allowing it to absorb all the delicious spices. 

Bibik’s Kitchen Nyonya Cuisine

Address: 73, Jalan Sri Bahari, George Town

Hours: Every day except Monday 11:30 am – 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Price: Chicken meals cost 20 RM (approx. $4.20)

2.  Mum’s Nyonya Cuisine

Mum Nyonya Nyonya Food In Penang by Authentic Food Quest
Check out this Nyonya restaurant in Penang for home-cooked foodPhoto credit: Mum’s on Facebook

For home cooked Nyonya food that you don’t find in every restaurant, check out Mum’s Nyonya Cuisine

Find specialties like asam pedas fish or sour and spicy fish stew. Ju hu cha or cuttlefish fried with turnip, carrot and mushroom and rolled in a lettuce leaf is another one to try.

With another favorite, ikan purut or fish belly dish cooked with herbs and vegetables, locals say the food reminds them of their grandma’s cooking.

Mum’s Nyonya cuisine restaurant is tucked away from the tourist area and looks like an ordinary house. However, there is a little sign at the entrance making it easy to find. 

Mum’s Nyonya Cuisine

Address: 31-D, Lorong Abu Siti, George Town

Hours: Every day except Monday 11:00 am – 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Price: Prices start at 12 RM for vegetable dishes (approx. $2.50), Perut Ikan costs 20 RM (approx. $4.20)

3. Ivy’s Nyonya Cuisine

Ivys Nyonya Cuisine Nyonya Food In Penang by Authentic Food Quest
This restaurant is known for serving affordable traditional meals Photo credit: Ivy’s on Facebook

This Nyonya restaurant is small, bright, clean and comfortable with indoor and outdoor seating available.

It’s tucked away in a converted Nyonya style terrace home and serves authentic Nyonya cuisine. It’s no wonder it is always packed with locals.

Ivy’s Nyonya Cuisine emphasizes fresh seafood and traditional Peranakan foods. For the best Penang foodie experience, try their set meals of Nyonya cuisine.

You’ll find a variety of seafood and meat dishes in the set menus. This is a great way to sample reasonably priced Nyonya food.

Ivy’s Nyonya Cuisine

Address: 58, Jalan Chow Thye, George Town

Hours: Every day 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm, except Monday 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Price: Prices start at 18 RM (approx. $3.80)

4. Baba Phang

Baba Phang Nyonya Food In Penang by Authentic Food Quest
Find less known Nyonya food in Penang at Baba Phang Photo credit: Baba Phang on Facebook

Baba Phang is one of the best Nyonya restaurants in Penang. You’ll find less popular traditional dishes like Daun Ubi Masak Titik, Cincalok Pork Belly, and Kerabu Kacang Botol. 

The Kerabu Kacang Botol is a favorite, made with winged beans, dried shrimp, lime juice and spicy shrimp paste or sambal belacan. 

The chefs meticulously slice the vegetables into very thin slices resulting in a crunchy, refreshing, mildly spicy dish that can be quite addictive! 

Try visiting Baba Phang for lunch, as dinner can get very busy.

Baba Phang

Address: 17, Jalan Sri Bahari, George Town,

Hours: Every day except Wednesday 11:30 am – 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm. 

Price: Prices start at 6 RM for snacks (approx. $1.30), 23 RM for fish dishes (approx. $4.90)

5. Nyonya Su Pei Private Dining / Heritage Artisans

Heritage Artisans Nyonya Food Penang by Authentic Food Quest
Enjoy this special private dining experiencePhoto credit: Nyonya Su Pei on Facebook

This true hidden gem is where you’ll find some of the best Nyonya food in Penang.

Born and raised in Penang, Nyonya Su Pei was schooled in the art of Peranakan cooking by her grandma-in-law and mother-in-law. 

They taught her all about Nyonya cuisine and imparted over 500 prized family recipes.

Along with her husband Baba Jerry, Su Pei cooks and presents Peranakan private dining experiences. 

Guided by Baba Jerry’s personal anecdotes and story-telling, the homecooked Nyonya food is presented with details of the vibrant and dynamic culture behind the cuisine. 

Natural ingredients and fresh, seasonal produce are hand picked by the chef and transformed into richly complex dishes using time-honored techniques. 

Nyonya Su Pei and Baba Jerry provide a unique experience for everyone in a quiet, comfortable, welcoming environment.

Nyonya Su Pei

Address:  53, Jalan Padang Victoria, George Town

Hours: Every day except Monday 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm 

Price: Price range is $64 – $106

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you would like to learn to make Nyonya cuisine and learn about Peranakan culture, consider taking a cooking class. Professional Chef Samuel from Malaysia will teach you to make at least three main Nyonya dishes over a four hour period. Delve into Peranakan culture with a cooking class in Penang.

6. Little Kitchen @ Nyonya

Little Kitchen Nyonya Food Penang by Authentic Food Quest
Charming entrance to Little Kitchen Photo Credit: Little Kitchen @ Nyonya on Facebook

Little Kitchen @ Nyonya isn’t a restaurant. It is a classic Baba Nyonya house, which Baba Jay and his family open up to guests for a home cooked meal. 

Little Kitchen is all about sampling as many classic Nyonya dishes as possible in a unique, family-friendly, cultural, and educational experience. 

Baba Jay’s home is a gorgeous Straits heritage house that he inherited from his Peranakan great-grandfather. 

Stepping inside is like walking back in time. Appreciating the well-preserved interior, with its antique furniture and intricate woodwork, provides the perfect atmosphere. 

There are only three tables – Baba Jay will give you his personal attention – so reservations are required to experience this authentic Nyonya food.

Little Kitchen @ Nyonya

Address: 179, Lebuh Noordin, George Town

Hours: Every day except weekend 6:30 pm –9:00 pm 

Price: Prices start at 88 RM (approx.  $18.70)

7. Richard Rivalee Nyonya Cuisine Restaurant

Richard Rivalee Nyonya Food Penang by Authentic Food Quest
This place offers many Nyonya dishesPhoto credit: Richard Rivalee Nyonya Cuisine Restaurant on Facebook

Richard Rivalee is considered a Nyonya Cuisine guru.  He is known to cook over 100 types of Nyonya dishes, though not all are offered on his menu. 

He is also a top local fashion Malaysian designer and the ambience of his restaurant shines.

The ornate, carved wooden building offers a dimmed, romantic setting with Peranakan tablecloths and blue and white porcelain dinnerware. 

Beautiful knick knacks and Nyonya wares provide a showcase of Peranakan culture. 

A favorite dish at this Nyonya restaurant in Penang is the Jiu Hu Char. This stir fried dish is made with carrots, finely-julienned jicama, shiitake mushrooms, pork, and finely-shredded dried cuttlefish. It is renowned for its distinct umami flavors. 

Richard Rivalee also excels at Nyonya desserts. Be sure to try the gula melaka sago pudding with palm sugar, or bubur cha cha, which are all balanced and not overly sweet.

Richard Rivalee Nyonya Cuisine Restaurant

Address: 62 & 64, Lorong Macalister, George Town

Hours: Open every day except Tuesday 11:30 am – 2:30 pm and 6:00 pm – 9:30 pm

Price: Prices start at 20 RM (approx. $4.20)

8. Auntie Gaik Lean’s Old School Eatery

Auntie Gaik Best Nyonya Food In Penang by Authentic Food Quest
Servings at this restaurant are generousPhoto credit: Auntie Gaik Lean’s on Facebook

Auntie Gaik Lean’s serves Nyonya food in a spacious, well-lit, unpretentious dining environment with a lively atmosphere. 

The dining area is comfortably sized with large tables and friendly staff including the owner who walks around meeting guests.

While prices may seem high upon first glance, the portions sizes are very large. One dish can be shared among three to four people.

Expect a wide variety of classic Nyonya dishes, including local favorites like Chicken Curry Kapitan, Sambal Brinjal or eggplant, juices and more.

Auntie Gaik Lean’s Old School Eatery serves authentic Nyonya cuisine that has the perfect balance of sweet, spicy, sour and salty. 

Auntie Gaik Lean’s Old School Eatery

Address: 1, Bishop St, Georgetown

Hours: Open every day except Monday 12:00 pm – 2:30 pm and 6:00 pm – 9:30 pm

Price: Main dishes start at 16 RM  (approx. $3.40)

9. Nyonya Palazzo

Nyonya Palazzo Best Nyonya Food In Penang by Authentic Food Quest
Try best Nyonya food in Penang with a modern twistPhoto credit: Nyonya Palazzo on Facebook

Housed within the prominent Pinang Peranakan Mansion, a legend Nyonya house, this restaurant offers a culturally rich experience.

This Nyonya cafe offers a an array of some of the best Nyonya food with a touch of modernity. Find colorful desserts or kuih, a signature platter of bites of scrumptious Nyonya dishes.

To immerse fully into Nyonya culture, there is a gift shop highlighting Peranakan culture. You’ll find clothing, jewelry, bags, housewares, art, chocolates, and more. 

You can even rent a Nyonya kebaya or traditional tunic for a photo shoot wearing Nyonya distinctive designs.

Ornate and colorful, every corner of this modern Nyonya cuisine restaurant is filled with intricately-designed furniture. 

For an afternoon delight, try the Baba Nyonya High Tea Set which allows you to sample an assortment of five beautifully presented kuihs or desserts. Reservations are highly recommended.

This is a perfect spot to stop after your visit to the Peranakan Mansion. From entrance to end, the Nyonya Palazzo pays homage to the rich culture Peranakan culture. 

Nyonya Palazzo

Address: 29, Church St, Georgetown, 

Hours: Open every day except Thursday 10:00 am – 6:30 pm

Price: Main courses start at 14.90 RM (approx. $3.20)

10. Winn’s Cafe

Winns Cafe Penang Nyonya Food by Authentic Food Quest
Savor exquisitely served meals in a casual settingPhoto credit: Winn’s Cafe on Facebook

Enjoy meticulously prepared and beautifully-plated dishes in a relaxed atmosphere at Winn’s Cafe. 

Expect classic Nyonya dishes that full of flavor and meticulously prepared. You can choose either set menus of popular Nyonya foods or order individual plates off the menu.

One of their most popular signature dishes is the nasi ulam or rice salad with its complex, refreshing flavors.

The rice is mixed with finely-julienned herbs like daun kadok, turmeric, ginger, kerisik (toasted grated coconut), and dried shrimp. 

It’s topped off with a touch of ginger and the shrimp paste or sambal belacan adds to the deliciousness.

Be sure to end your meal with Bee Koh Moi or Pulut Hitam in Malay. It is a black glutinous dessert with coconut milk and a traditional finish of authentic Nyonya cuisine.

Winn’s Cafe

Address: 38, Jalan Cantonment, Pulau Tikus, George Town

Hours: Open every day except Sunday 11:00 am – 3:00 pm 

Price: Prices start at 16.50 (approx. $3.50)

Best Things to Do in Penang: Visit Pinang Peranakan Mansion

Pinang Peranakan Mansion Nyonya Food Authentic Food Quest
Courtyard of the Pinang Peranakan Mansion

For a glimpse back in time to how the wealthy Straits Chinese settlers lived, visit the Pinang Peranakan Mansion, a cultural museum of Peranakan heritage.

Built at the end of the 19th century, the restored mansion is the former residence of Chung Keng Kwee, the wealthiest man in Penang during his time. 

The ornate mansion has an eclectic mix of Eastern and Western elements and a wealth of artifacts that transport you back in time.

We were quite impressed during our visit. As soon as you enter the museum, you cannot help but notice the opulent dining area. 

Meals were like ceremonies for entertaining guests, and the art of cooking was an expression of cultural exuberance and eclecticism.

Nyonya Kitchen Penang Nyonya Food by Authentic Food Quest
Colorful dishes inside Nyonya kitchen

In the kitchen, the stove is at the center, made of long bricks with holes. Wooden boxes with wire mesh sides are suspended from the ceiling, and porcelain or earthenware jars all around.

In and around the kitchen, the mistress of the house would entertain friends, relatives. This is where the women in the household gathered.

This visit to the Pinang Peranakan Mansion was an eye opener on the celebration of the Nyonya food at a Peranakan home.

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: For a deeper dive into the history of Nyonya culture in Penang, consider taking a private history tour. With an entertaining history buff for a guide, you’ll visit the Pinang Peranakan Mansion and other top Penang sites. Over 3.5 hours, you’ll get a good historical understanding of Penang and the blend of cultures.

Authentic Food Quest Page_Break

In Summary

Malaysia is a country blessed with a wonderful blend of cultures and the northern Peranakan cuisines are worth discovering through Nyonya food.

Authentic Nyonya cuisine is a significant marker of Peranakan culture. The food is a medley of tastes – salty, sweet, spicy, and sour, which, in the hands of a Nyonya cook, is a wonderful collision of flavors.

In Penang, don’t miss discovering Nyonya culture and classic Nyonya dishes. The Nyonya food, created by the women in the kitchen, has spawned a delicious new style of cooking that must be experienced.

Have you heard of Nyonya food in Penang or Peranakan cuisine before? In the comments below, tell us which Nyonya food you would love to try!

Love Nyonya Food? Pin It!

Pinterest Nyonya Food In Penang by Authentic Food Quest

42 Comments on “Nyonya Food in Penang: Top 10 Foods And Restaurants to Eat Them”

  1. I haven’t tried eating Nonya food but it looks delicious! The appetizers alone is mouth-watering! Love the variety of colors of those cakes too. Good to know that they use natural colorings on them.

  2. Oh my goodness, the top hats sound – and look! – amazing, as does the veggie stew. Love, love, LOVE exploring a place through it’s local cuisine! (And, as someone who’s limited her meat intake, it’s always great too see that there are so many veggie options when traveling – you just gotta look!) Pinning the heck outta this post!

  3. Oh, no!!! I opened the post at the wrong time. It’s close to lunch time here in the U.S. and I know all those foods since I came from the neighboring country, Indonesia. And all I have right now is a left over soup from last night. 🙁

  4. Strangely I’ve had the nyonya cakes here in Seattle. Somebody brought them to a party and they were gone in a heartbeat cuz they were bombdigity. The many uses of rice in desserts and just everything always fascinates me.

    • That’s amazing that you had Nyonya cakes in Seattle. Sounds like they were homemade. They are so many different kinds and we never found one we didn’t like 🙂 Indeed the plethora of rice-based desserts are tasty and worthy of exploration. Thanks, Rob.

    • Thank you and so glad you enjoyed learning about Nyonya Chap Chai. In terms of recipes, the best bet would be to find one on Google. There are tons of recipes, including videos. Finding the products locally might be the biggest challenge. Please do let us know what recipe you end up making. Cheers!

  5. What a fantastic experience to have, as well as fantastic food! The description and photo of the chicken curry has legitimately made my stomach rumble, and the cakes are so colourful!

  6. Of all your posts, this has absolutely been my favorite! The history and culture that you guys are able to learn about through food is amazing. I especially love the history of cultures mixing so I found the history of the Peranakan culture fascinating. And to be able to visit the mansion must have been so cool!!

    • Thanks so much Vicky. So glad you enjoyed discovering Peranakan culture through food, much like we did. The mix of cultures and then to taste the food is truly fascinating. Exploring the mansion and seeing how the Baba-Nyonya lived in the past was truly eye-opening as well. Thanks again and so glad you enjoyed the article.

  7. No, I never heard about nyonya food and I enjoyed it through your beautiful descriptions and photos. I would like to try the chicken curry and the appetizers but I am not sure about the cakes, he hee. I always enjoy your food quests and this one with the help of a local is even better. Good job!

    • Thanks Elisa and so glad to hear that you enjoy reading about our quests. In this case, we are really grateful to Kathleen who introduced us to the food and from a personal experience. Appreciate your feedback. Cheers!

  8. Such a great way to explore a new culture, through its food. I’d never heard of the Peranakan culture, but enjoyed learning about it here. I’d love to try the Kuih Paiti, the bean curd and to explore Pinang Peranakan Mansion.

    • Thanks so much Carol. We had never heard of Peranakan culture and Nyoyna food either. So delicious and our hope is that travelers will through food learn different aspects of the local culture. Glad you enjoyed the article.

    • Thanks Carol. Indeed, our hope with authentic food quest is to inspire travelers to savor the local flavors of a destination. In so doing, they’ll learn a new aspect of the local culture and have deeper travel experiences. Glad you enjoyed discovering Peranakan culture with us.

  9. Those Top Hats look so delicious Rosemary. The wonderful mix of flavors and ingredients in each of these dishes makes for delightful fare.

    I recall seeing a heavy Chinese influence in Penang – especially in the neighborhood where we stayed, by Queensbay Mall – so this makes perfect sense. I actually saw more Chinese folks than any other culture, including local folks as well as Indians, who have quite a presence in Malaysia too. Lovely melting pot, the land and this island is.


    • You are right Ryan, depending on the neighborhood, we also observed different Malay communities. However, on our quest for the local flavors, we made sure to eat at Chinese, Malay and Indian dominant hawker centers. In the end, we found a delicious mix, that is not necessarily “owned” by one group, but representative of Malaysia. Indeed a fascinating melting pot! Thanks, Ryan.

  10. I didn’t realise the significance and variance of the Nyonya cuisine, so this article was a great introduction to that for me. I love Malaysian food, but I now wonder if over the years I’ve actually had some Nyonya cuisine and not realised it. I absolutely loved your photo of the tiffin carriers – so beautiful decorated – I want one!

    • Thanks so much Hannah, and glad you enjoyed the article. If you spent time in Penang, you probably have eaten Nyonya food. One of the most popular is otak-otak. Now that this article has provided an introduction, on your next trip seek out this delightful cuisine. Glad you like the tiffin carriers 🙂

  11. I had frankly never heard of Nyonya Cuisine. But thanks for letting us know about another dimension of Chinese and Malay cuisine which are already rich anyway! Your dining room sure looks royal!

  12. I had never heard of nyonya food. Penang (and Malaysia) are quite the foodie’s paradise. Those Nyonya Top Hats look so delicious that I can see how easy it would be to pop a few too many and feel full before that gorgeous mixed vegetable stew. I’ve never quite fallen in love with Asian desserts, with the exception being Mango Sticky Rice. But, I do like the delicate vanilla flavor of pandan and would love to try those authentic cakes.

    • Glad you enjoyed learning about Nyonya food. Indeed Malaysia is a must-visit destination for the food. Agree, mango sticky rice is amazing and many of these little Nyonya treats are pretty tasty as well. Good food all around 🙂

  13. I always love getting a local’s perspective on cuisine. Kathleen did you right! I can’t get over the beautiful, bright colors on the dessert. I love that it comes from natural coloring!

    • When you get a local perspective on the culture, it is fascinating. We agree Kelly, and are glad that Kathleen introduced us to Peranakan culture and Nyonya food. The desserts are delicious and colored with natural ingredients such as pandan leaves.

  14. Hi Rosemary & Claire, what a fantastic post! You encapsulated a perfect summary of Nyonya food 🙂 Thank you for mentioning me in the post, and I’m really happy that you both enjoyed our outing together in Penang. If you are planning to return to South-East Asia again, don’t forget to look me up! Take care, and HAPPY TRAVELS…

    • Thank so much Kathleen and THANK YOU for being such a wonderful tour guide. We really enjoyed discovering this unique and culture. We are certainly looking forward to coming back again to Penang and catching up. Thanks again and safe travels!!


Leave a Comment

Post a Comment

We love to hear from you, so tell us what you think.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.